Wimbledon women on climbing the ranks of English hockey

Newly promoted Wimbledon women sit second in the England Hockey Premier Division, and with the help of former England captain Alex Danson-Bennett as coach, the south west London side are hoping to continue their success after lockdown.

Having won all of their outdoor and indoor matches last season in the Division One South, Wimbledon’s first team were easily promoted to the Premier Division for the 2020/21 season.

The new addition on the coaching side in gold medallist Alex Danson-Bennett has seen the first team soar into second place, just four points behind East Grinstead.

Captain of their first team, Harriet Naismith, has played for Wimbledon for nine years now, leading three of those seasons.

She said: “A totally unbeaten season is practically unheard of, so it was incredible to do that.

“It’s an ambition we’ve had for a really long time, but we just hadn’t taken our chances in the past when we needed to.

“We did it in style with a clean sweep winning all 17 matches to make sure we got promoted.”

The step up from the Division One South into the Premier Division has added to the side’s competitiveness.

Having dominated most of their league games for many years, the south west London team have won four out of their six matches this season, including an incredible 4-0 victory over Swansea in their first game of the season.

Naismith said: “I think we are just constantly looking to develop.

“Being in the first year of the Premier Division we are finding our feet, but we’ve got to really prove that we deserve to be in the league and deserve to compete for those top couple of spots.”

This year has seen the Premier Division change to a split league structure due to the curtailed 2019/20 season, meaning that each team plays each other once before Christmas, before splitting into two pools made up of the top six and lower five teams.

The next phase will see teams in the lower five play each other twice, while teams in the top six face the other teams in the group once.

The month-long lockdown came only two months into the new season, but Naismith believes the break came at a good time for the team.

She said: “It’s been quite nice for our team to have a break and reflect on where we’re at.

“We still have to finish four more games and really want to finish in the top six. we need to make sure that happens.

“It is quite ambitious for our first year in the Premier League, but we really feel like we can compete with those top teams who have been in there for a while.

“There are a few teams like Hampstead and East Grinstead who have followed a similar journey to us being promoted and subsequently gone on to do really well in their first couple of seasons.

“We just hope to emulate much of their success and put our name out there for ourselves too.”

Wimbledon’s newest recruit to the coaching staff will be hoping for success too, with Alex Danson-Bennett joining head coach Colin Cooper.

Naismith commented: “It has been really inspirational and exciting to have Alex.

“I was involved with recruiting Alex and not being able to tell the team straight away was quite hard.

“Her wealth of experience and her energy has been absolutely invaluable, especially her work with the forwards.

“She has fitted in not just with the team but with the club actually which I think is really important.

“She’s really great to have on board and only makes us stronger.”

Wimbledon will next play East Grinstead away in what is set to be a close contention and still have two home matches at Raynes Park High School, with dates for fixtures yet to be announced.

Keep updated with Wimbledon’s success and upcoming fixtures on their website.

Photo featured taken by Peter Smith at Smif Sports.

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